Term Paper: Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle's Own Work

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Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

The concept of ethics can mean many different things, depending on the person asked to describe or discuss it. However, there are specific issues that can be examined to help determine whether something is actually ethical or not. Aristotle used certain mail concepts to show how ethics can be turned into something tangible that everyone can agree on. The purpose of this paper is to reflect upon Aristotle's ideas and shed light on them, as well as point out what is both good and bad about the ideas he presented.

One of the best things about what Aristotle writes is that he defines each concept that he discusses, so that a reader with little to no understanding of what Aristotle is trying to say can be made to grasp the concepts that he talks about and writes about so eloquently. The main concept that Aristotle discusses is moral virtue. It would appear that moral virtue is very important to him, and that most everything that can be said about humanity hinges on moral virtue in one way or another. He sees virtue as being composed of two different things, and being both intellectual and moral. The intellectual part of virtue comes from teaching, and the moral part comes from the habits that one has.

In Book II of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle deals with a health analogy. This analogy discusses how health is acquired in the body and moral virtue is acquired in the soul. By this he means that the soul must have moral virtue and the body must have health for the person to be complete. The health analogy also alludes to the fact that a person may believe that he is healthy and not actually be healthy, and this can be true of both his physical health and his moral or spiritual health as well. Both the body and the soul have states of fitness that are both real and apparent, and there are apparent and real skills that create these particular states of health in the individual.

This would seem to make sense, since people's morals and ideals often change as they grow older, but many of the more ingrained habits that a specific person has seem to remain largely the same, whether they are moral or not. This is true of their physical habits as well. Many people think of themselves as healthy, even if they are overweight, if they smoke, or if they do not exercise. These people may have a good state of health despite those things, but it is likely that this state of health will not continue if their habits are not changed. The same is true of the moral virtue that people have. They may feel as though they are healthy in this area, but those that struggle with moral virtue and do not allow it to be a strong part of their lives will eventually be plagued by that, and it will cause them difficulties later in their lives that they could have avoided.

People can change somewhat, however, as they are taught new things and learn about life from both standard teaching, such as schooling, and the teaching that comes from simply being alive long enough to learn many things about the world and about people. Virtues often change somewhat as people grow older and find that life is not necessarily quite what they thought it was when they were younger. These things can work to make someone more or less virtuous, depending on the kinds of lessons that they learn as they age. Both physical and moral health are related to this, as both are affected by the experiences that a person has in their life and the choices that person makes.

Both the physical body and the moral virtue, or character, that one has must be nurtured and developed. All individuals are free to choose how they will handle these things and whether they will develop them fully. They are also free to choose what direction they wish to take with their health, both of body and of virtue. When these individuals have no interest in taking care of themselves in either of these areas they often suffer and do not understand what it is that they have done wrong. Studying this can help to show these people the things that they should and should not be doing for their lives in both areas, but because their character and their physical desires are strongly linked there is little chance that they will develop well in one area and not in the other.

In examining Aristotle's ideas of virtue and ethics, it also appears that pleasure and pain are large components to what people do in life. Many people do things that they consider ethical, but will refrain from things that they feel will cause them pain, even if those things are very virtuous. In conjunction with that, many people will also gravitate toward things that allow them much pleasure, even if those things are not entirely virtuous. This is why there are individuals out there in the world that do awful things to themselves and one another through their lifestyle, choices, and habits.

Choices are very important when it comes to what Aristotle believed. All individuals make choices, and they then have to live with those choices. Often, they do not think about the way that those choices affect the others around them, and therefore they are not acting in a way that Aristotle would consider to be virtuous. It seems as though being truly morally virtuous is a goal that is not completely attainable, as all individuals will do things that they know they should not, and not do some of the things that they know they should. However, virtue is a habit and a skill, and making the choice to be virtuous is the first step in a rather long journey toward succeeding at that goal.

Still, there are many that choose another path. They lie, cheat, and steal, but they have very little guilt about it. Many of them could not explain what Aristotle had to say if asked, and they likely do not care. These are the individuals that do not have any sense of moral virtue. They are interested in their own pleasure, even if that pleasure causes pain to others that are around them, and they want to avoid causing themselves any of this pain. As long as the pleasure belongs to them and the pain belongs to other people, they do not see anything wrong with their lives, but deep down it is possible that they are aware of the damage that they are causing, both to themselves and to others.

These people likely know that what they are doing is wrong, but doing things right would not give them enough pleasure for the pain that they would have to endure, so they stay with the habits that they have and the things that they have learned, and choose as little personal pain as possible. Whether they cause pain to others through their actions does not seem to be a major concern to them. Aristotle saw this as simply the way that people are created, and not something that can easily be modified. Even though he feels this way about modification, there is also some indication that Aristotle knew that modifications of this behavior could take place if the individual in question had a strong enough desire to make the changes that were necessary. This desire is not present in many people, apparently, but there are still some that will follow Aristotle's path as much as they are able to.

People who are normally just and virtuous will perform acts that are also virtuous, but Aristotle maintains the opinion that those who are not naturally this way can become this way be performing these same kinds of acts. This is an interesting point-of-view, but not one that seems to be particularly accurate, although Aristotle makes very eloquent arguments, no matter what he discusses. It would seem, however, that doing virtuous acts does not create a virtuous person. Just because someone does something nice for others does not mean that they are a nice person. It might simply mean that it was to their advantage at that time to perform that act, and that they intend to get something in return that they could not obtain otherwise. This is deceitful, and has little to do with being truly virtuous. A virtuous person would perform virtuous acts, not for personal gain, but because it was the 'right' thing to do. This is the main weak point of Aristotle's argument.

However, even though there are some ambiguities in Aristotle's argument about what makes someone virtuous, it could also be argued that those that perform virtuous acts - regardless of their reasons - will continue to perform those acts. These people will find that there are many rewards to being… [END OF PREVIEW]

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